Showing-up online. How you move. Your hand gestures and body language. Those revealing micro-expressions. What you’re wearing. Even the way you brush your hair. You’ll agree – collectively all these factors contribute to how someone creates that snap-judgement of who you are. But there’s one element that influences us by far the most. An element that we tend to neglect and rarely actually focus on. That’s right – our voice.
As we’re all aware – in a virtual setting when suddenly become a 2D image when we’re confined to a rectangular boxed screen, many elements of connection are reduced. Physical cues, subtle nuances and the overall presence of a person. But the way we use our voice can really make a difference to the way our audience makes sense of our messages. Equally, the self-perception you give to your audience. Even more importantly – a virtual audience.
Vocal delivery is essential to getting your messages across. How we sound really does count!
In my world as an international speaker coach, as I help leaders to really find their sweet spot in their delivery, share better stories and build confident presence – vocal awareness and how they sound is crucial.
Today, as most of the world we live in continues to teleport us into a digital bubble, boosting virtual engagement in meetings, calls and presentations has become a hot-topic. Far too many online experiences fall short. Far too boring, constantly monotonous with an overwhelming number of online experiences which simply get us to tune-out emotionally.
One of the dominant ways of starting to change all this – is having good vocal delivery.
Here are some ideas to consider to become more aware of your voice and maintain good engagement – every time you show-up online.
Think & feel the thoughts of your words
Our thoughts directly affect the way we feel. In turn, what we say and often how we say it, is determined by how we’re feeling at that moment in time. So essentially, thinking the thoughts of your words is all about staying right in the moment. Not thinking of anything else. Not letting distraction sabotage your mind.
When you’re actually thinking the thought connected with your words, you become present with what you are saying.
Try this. Think about what you say, as you actually say it. As you start to visualize and feel the thoughts conjured up by the words you say, your pace will tend to slow down and tone begins to change. More importantly, your listener will get a sense that you’re really in-tune with your own content – something which helps your audience stay connected with you.
If there’s one thing that stands out, when working with clients who value what it takes to speak well virtually, something that I can almost guarantee – speaking too fast. In a virtual setting we need more time to absorb the messages we hear. Bringing down your regular speaking rate to roughly a third would be a good level for starters. As this may not be something you’re used to – the outcome in terms of perception works wonders!
Speaking too quickly can often create an impression of someone with high anxiety, lower credibility and even come across as unprepared. Speaking slowly with enunciation and focused intention lets your listeners know you’re in control which leads to respect and trust.
Slow down the rate of your sentences by gently pausing after every fourth or fifth word. Essentially shorter sentences with a pause at the end. Then imagine you’re widening the space of the words themselves. Put a slight pause right in the middle of a word. For example, consider saying your words slowly and inserting a small pause in between syllables.
Bear in mind our brains are stimulated by novelty – things that are unpredictable. Vary your pace at certain points to generate emotion. Use a slightly faster rate to ignite excitement and throw in a welcomed pause to really highlight a certain point
Show personality through your voice
When it comes to speaking in the spotlight, both virtually and in-person, leaders tend to feel they can’t truly be themselves. This translates into official un-engaging content shared in an unmemorable way. The truth of the matter is simply – audiences want us to show more of who they are as they speak, especially those who lead.
Be ready to share slightly more positive emotions to those online. Sharing a sense of gratitude, showing you care, taking a genuine interest in those on the call (not just from a corporate point of view) and bringing some light-hearted moments to during the online experience can really help to let people know more of the person they don’t usually get to see in this way.
Having a notion of sharing more of who you are is a good thing. Revealing a little of your personality helps your listeners engage with you on a more emotional level. When this happens – our brains tend to remember more, listen more and in even trust more.
Project your voice loud and clear
Not being heard clearly is an area that is common among those looking to improve their voice. Far too often speakers are not loud enough, mumble their words and end up not being able to really share the intended messages. When we think about projecting our voice, the misconception that comes to mind is raising our volume and shouting.
Projecting is much more than just shouting. It’s essentially a combination of elements. The first is allowing your voice to be heard with your personality together with confidence and belief in the messages you share, behind your words.
Another is simply setting a clear intention. Be clear and focussed in your mind about your messages which will help to show more passion.
Finally, developing a deeper resonant sound is what you’re aiming for to project your voice in a stronger and powerful way. This can be achieved through deeper bold breathing, filling your entire body with air and energy.
So a combination of personality, passion, confidence and clear intention will put you on track to improving your projection.
Awareness is the key
Essentially, simply being more aware of your voice, how other hear you and knowing you can start to shape your voice in a way that brings you closer to better outcomes – is a strong foundation. When you start to feel good and appreciate the sound of your voice – others will start to do the same.
Chairman, Communication Committee, WICMI
International Public Speaking & TEDx Coach